This news is almost too good to be true -- which is precisely why, for the moment, it's an unconfirmed rumor -- but according to screenshots that were passed along to Engadget over the weekend, Amazon is on the verge of offering a Netflix-like, unlimited-video-streaming service to anyone who pays for an Amazon Prime account. And if you already have a Prime account, your movie-loving brain is no doubt going OMG-OMG-OMG! right this very second; if you don't have one, or don't even know what a Prime account is, here's what the arrangement would look like:
An Amazon Prime account costs $79 a year and primarily gives you free two-day shipping on almost any item sold directly from Amazon (and a big discount on overnight shipping). Basically, if you buy a lot of items from the retailer, it's already a great deal. Now imagine having access to 5,000 movies and TV shows in addition to the heavily discounted shipping rates at no additional cost.
Compare that $79 Amazon Prime annual cost to Netflix' $95.88 for its unlimited streaming service. Free shipping and $16 savings? Yeah, that's kind of a big deal.
Movie-streaming will be an excellent added bonus to those of us who have a Prime account, but this offer would have far-reaching impact beyond existing subscribers. Such a plan would make Amazon's Video on Demand service the first viable contender to the Netflix throne. Yes, they'll first have to obtain the device penetration that Netflix has over the years (can they quickly get on board with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to offer Amazon streaming on gaming consoles?), but unlike any of the other Netflix challengers in the industry, the company's built-in subscriber base gives them a leg up so massive that Netflix will no longer be able to ignore the competition. And if that's the case, it could eventually mean lower streaming prices at Netflix, which is win for everyone.
Of course, this is all based on the assumption that Amazon does indeed intend to include their streaming service with the existing Prime subscription cost (and they could certainly afford to, considering the bundled shipping discounts mean people will also buy more physical items to make up the difference). Rumors have been swirling for months that Amazon was going to make a bold play for Netflix' market share, so let's hope that the screenshots Engadget obtained prove to be true.